It started last year as a hobby project. The Swiss Christoph Cronimund, who works in search engine marketing, found the search results on Google too cluttered. So he began to make the search results a bit clearer for himself. When that succeeded, he noticed that he was also bothered by the advertising. So he filtered them out. “Only now did I realize that the main benefit of the whole project was that it was completely anonymous,” says Cronimund. The “Trooia” project was born. With the search mask he created himself, he was now able to anonymously use Google.
However, the website was initially only intended for him, friends and family – until he became an editor friend of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung told about it. The paper published an interview with Cronimund in early February in which he presented his anonymous Google search. The response to it was huge, but his site wasn’t designed for that many searches. He had to take it off the network first. Cronimund cannot say how many inquiries there were, he does not track his users. But there must have been a few. “The week after that, I answered over a thousand emails,” he says. “It seems as if my project struck a nerve. Many people are obviously important data protection, and some certainly feel a powerlessness against monopolists like Google”.
He finds alternatives like DuckDuckGo lukewarm
Google is by far the most widely used search engine in the world. More than 91 percent of all search queries are made to her, the remaining few percentage points are shared between Bing, Yahoo, Yandex and Baidu. Cronimund himself sees no alternative to Google in terms of the quality of the search results and it is also clear to him that a search engine will switch advertising if it can be used free of charge. “But a few years ago advertising on Google was not that dominant. Nowadays you almost have to scroll to get to the unpaid entries.” Cronimund has also tried alternative search engines such as DuckDuckGo and Startpage, which are committed to data protection and data economy. But he thinks it is “lukewarm”: “Both advertise at the top of the page, either from Microsoft Bing or Google”. So you will also be tracked here as soon as you click on advertising.
Cronimund therefore wants to continue Trooia, currently he is working on adapting the technical systems in such a way that they can cope with a broad interest. He writes a newsletter for people who want to know what happens next. He now has a few thousand subscribers. You are also among those who can test the new system when it is stable again.
But how does Trooia work now? The search queries that the user enters into Trooia are transmitted to Google. The results are again “scraped”. This is legal because the search results from Google are not subject to copyright and they are not personal data according to the European General Data Protection Regulation.
However, Google does not like it that searches are accessed automatically and blocks machines. He does not reveal how the company is doing this. Because nobody should have the opportunity to manipulate the systems with the help of this information, says Google. Cronimund, in turn, tries to get around the blocking, for example by renting a proxy pool, a service that distributes requests to a large number of computers that have different IP addresses. “You always have to fly under Google’s radar,” says Cronimund.
Cronimund pays the costs himself, but his newsletter community has already asked whether his service could be financially supported. The Swiss would like to find a solution to this problem with his community, but only if the technology behind Trooia is really running smoothly. He doesn’t yet know what it might look like. “The users give me a lot of feedback and they have ideas that I never came up with.” But in no case should you have to create a user profile, his service, which is important to him, should be completely anonymous.